Slips and falls

Winter conditions are a leading cause of slip-and-fall claims, so it’s important to properly maintain your premises during the winter season.

ensure your contract for outdoor snow removal or winter maintenance (salting/sanding) clearly identifies the responsibility of each party

get proof of insurance from your contractor by asking for a certificate of liability – if they don’t have one, refuse or beware

if you perform your own snow removal, maintain a written or electronic log to record snow removal operations – this is very important should a claim arise and may be your only proof in the court of law

perform regular inspections of your premises – pay attention to high-traffic areas, downspout discharge locations, and areas that are prone to freeze/thaw cycles

stay informed about the weather and be prepared

  • if a major storm is coming, ensure you have an adequate supply of salt/sand, shovels, etc.
  • check your local Weather Network regularly for more information about what you might need to prepare for a storm

winter can “bring itself” indoors through doorways and other openings

ensure you have adequate rugs and mats in high-traffic areas to prevent slips

provide areas for people to remove their winter clothing and boots – this will help prevent them from tracking snow, ice and water through the building

inspect and clean areas frequently

if you have a backup generator, ensure its adequately maintained and fueled

Reducing property damage

There are a number of potential hazards that can affect your building during the winter, from roof collapses and leaks to frozen pipes. Most can be prevented with a proper maintenance plan in place.


Building collapse

check the condition of your roof before winter strikes – clear any blocked drains and examine flashing and gutters

ice dams occur as a result of snow melting then cooling as it reaches the edge of your roof – ensure adequate insulation and roof venting is in place to prevent water from causing damage within the building

heat trace cabling can be used to reduce ice dams

areas prone to snow drifting and build-up should be reviewed frequently in the winter

always remember to put safety first – if you need to clear snow from your roof, it may be best to leave it to qualified contractors

Frozen pipes

review areas where piping passes through places that are exposed to low temperatures

review sprinkler systems, irrigation, domestic water lines and sanitary lines

drain the systems that aren’t required during the winter season

pipe insulation or heat tracing cabling can be used to reduce the likelihood of a frozen pipe

monitor your building’s temperature with a thermocouple through your burglar alarm system

if the building temperature falls as a result of heating equipment or power failure, you’ll be notified and emergency actions can be taken

Additional elements around your house or building

ensure sewer drains are free and clear of any obstructions

ensure all public and private fire hydrants are accessible – hydrant markers will aid in identifying hydrants in areas with significant snowfall

protect items such as trees, hydrants and natural gas meters against physical damage from snow removal operations – this may include curbing, posts or bollards

have an emergency response plan in place – at the very least, it should include contact names and phone numbers

include the local fire department, police, staff, local utilities, contractors, etc.